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Decision on Sale of Jets May Soon Be Due; Rogers, Nixon Drop Hints to That Effect

Secretary of State William P. Rogers and Joseph J. Sisco. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, met this morning with the original 10 of the 76 Senators who have urged him to approve the immediate sale of 25 more Phantom and 100 more Skyhawk Jets to Israel. Unconfirmed reports said Mr. Rogers promised a decision “shortly.” At the White House, President Nixon, speaking to 119 high school students designated “Presidential scholars,” said in the course of his impromptu remarks that “The Middle East is bubbling up and ready to explode again.” A few moments later he said: “The Middle East is about to go up.” Observers speculated that the Administration may have concluded that the balance of power in the Middle East has shifted away from Israel. Mr. Rogers, in his March 23 announcement of the holding of further jet sales “in abeyance,” said that decision was an “interim” one pending an “upset” in the power balance away from Israel. He said at that time that Israel’s air capabilities were “sufficient.”

Concurrently, visiting Moroccan Prime Minister Ahmed Laraki was expected to warn President Nixon, at a White House conference today, against the sale of jets for the sake of United States-Arab relations. Mr. Laraki also met with Mr. Rogers but there was no immediate disclosure about the content of the meeting. Mr. Laraki was also expected to ask Mr. Nixon to use his influence toward effecting an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories. Sen. Jacob K. Javits, New York Republican, one of the 10 Senators, indicated he was encouraged by the meeting with Mr. Rogers and Mr. Sisco. He told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency: “One thing comes through–there is no change in American policy toward the preservation of Israel.” He said the number of signers of the letter to Mr. Rogers was considered “impressive” by the Administration, which he said realizes that “the threat to Israel has never been greater.” He said a favorable jet decision, should it come, would be handled matter-of-factly and without “glamorous eclat.” Sen. Abraham Ribicoff, Connecticut Democrat, said: “I would be surprised and shocked if the answer (on the jets) was ‘no.'”

(An Egyptian government spokesman in Cairo warned the U.S. today not to give in to “pressure groups” advocating the sale of more jet aircraft to Israel. The spokesman said such sales would “undoubtedly lead to a serious escalation of the Mideast crisis” and create “a grave political situation in the area, indicating that the U.S. does not favor Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied territories.”) (According to Richard Beeston, Washington correspondent of the London Telegraph, Moscow’s refusal to provide the U.S. with a satisfactory explanation of its military involvement in Egypt gives President Nixon “no excuse” to put off an announcement of his decision on Israel’s request for more jets, “particularly as he is faced with mounting pressure from Congress to agree to Israel’s request.”)

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